Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm Really Impressed

It was a very white Troy and Isaac that greeted me when I got home tonight.

They had been painting.

Troy said they were going to paint the shop this week. I sort of thought he meant paint on the shop. Cause to say "paint the shop" that sort of implies you're going to get it all done.

And last night as we were cleaning up tools from putting up siding, he mentioned he and Isaac were going to paint the shop this week. I said, "You mean tomorrow?" Because that's all they had left of this week.

He said, "Yup. If tomorrow's Friday, then I mean tomorrow."

So ok. They'll paint on the shop today, Isaac's last day here and Troy's last vacation day.

But I get home and the shop door's open, and I can see they got a lot of painting done. Troy and Isaac fairly run to meet my car, which is a sure fire sign that they want to show something off to me. Troy says I have to settle a disagreement he and Isaac have had about how much more paint they need.

Then I walk in and see this:
(facing north-west)

and this:
(facing north-east)

And obviously the answer to the dispute is zero. They need zero more paint.

HOLY COW!! Is what I said. I was impressed.

You should be too: it's very impressive.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Winter Wrap-Up

(Seeing this picture again made me think of the carrots I lined up in this post.)

I don't want to jinx things by calling winter over, but let's face it: even if snow falls again, it's not staying long. This week with its sunny 60^ weather is doing a lot to convince us all that winter is gone for another year.

Looking back on this winter, it's definitely been the best yet for how comfortable the house was to be in. Several reasons, I think:

1. The winter wasn't quite as cold, and in particular didn't have the severe cold snap we had last year.

2. Troy was able to produce enough biodiesel to run the oil stove in the kitchen pretty much full time. When he first installed it, I called it "my new best friend" and it proved itself worthy of the title again this year.
It kept the kitchen very warm (often in the 70s) and that, of course, kept the rest of the house from getting too bad. For instance, I never noticed the living room was 42^ when I got home from work (which happened regularly last year). The lowest I saw this year was 50^. Those eight little Farenheit degrees make a big difference!

3. Troy insulated the kitchen windows and outside walls. We did not need to insulate the floor this year. (Although you could still notice when you stepped onto the portion of the floor built onto the concrete stoop.)

I also learned some lessons, and for instance when the back appliance room was particularly cold (being neither heated nor really insulated), I ran the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher to avoid water freezing in the tuperware containers.

This year, I definitely spent less time huddled in front of the woodstove unable to get up and work in a different area of the house. (Don't get me wrong, it was still my favourite place to be, but I could will myself to leave.)

I should add: 4. The cars were in a heated shop. I think about half way through the winter, we were able to put the cars in the shop. Even though this doesn't affect the house temperature, it definitely made a difference in how often the "cold and miserable" meter hit intolerable.

In light of the warmer temps, insulated kitchen and oil stove, we burnt less wood this year as well. We emptied just over two of our five racks (compared with 3.5 last year, I believe). We are now left with 1.75 racks full, a lot more than other years.

But still we must replace what we used and Isaac has been up to his usual spring break work of splitting wood and restocking our supply. He and Troy cut down a tree that was dead and far too near the shop for Troy's comfort. It's always exciting to see a tree fall! (And no cars were hurt in this case.)

After making short work of that tree, Isaac and Troy tackled one of the huge trunk pieces still from when we had the big maple trees removed in 2007.

With a lot of help from the tractor, they got one piece off of the pile. It was far too big for the chainsaw to be able to cut it to length, so they set it up to drive in wedges in an attempt to split it.

They managed...barely. At one point all 4 wedges were driven in seemingly as far as they could go and they thought they were stuck. But they continued and slowly got the wood to budge.

They finally did get it to split, and then Troy could use his chainsaw to cut it in half.

Here is one quarter of the trunk they were working on:

Here is the other half (still not cut to length):

Isaac split some of the larger pieces. They needed some help from the tractor as they moved them to the splitter and positioned them.

One piece did end up being too much for the poor splitter. It did actually split the wood, but then the wedge got stuck in the wood (which sometimes happens). As it was lifted, the bar that's supposed to push the wood off of the wedge broke a weld instead:
Isaac laid off the really big pieces after that. Troy will have to fix it later.

And I'll leave you with a picture of spring:
I didn't plant these bulbs (snowbells?) and don't have anything like them as far as I remember. Some squirrel kindly planted them for me from a neighbour's garden, I presume!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Need an environmental/food pick-me-up?

I am keenly aware that many of the blog posts here are a happy mix of gloom and alarmist. Let's face it, there are a lot of gloomy and alarming things going on in the world at the moment. I'm fun at parties too!

However, I ran across a reference to a genuine success story about food, and farming, and the environment. So, since I am more interested in fixing the problem, than I am about worrying about it, go watch this:

This is from the TED series, ideas worth sharing. They generally run from 5-15 minutes, and are often brilliant and outstanding. They run the gamut from astrophysics and the meaning and origin of the universe, to, well, fish farming.

While this specific post is about fish farming, the general principles discussed would immediately be recognized by the organic gardener as well. It's all about the relationships. It's an excellent summary of what I am striving for on our little seven acres.

Micro-update on the building process, Isaac and I will likely paint the shop this week if we can move all the junk out of the the way.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Conversation on the way home from church Sunday:

Troy: I really wish one of us really liked to cook...

Christina: Ya, that would be easier.

Troy: ...especially if it was you.

Ha ha.

So we still struggle with putting food on the table every night. Right now Troy's working hard on emptying the freezer of meat as we expect another pig this spring from our neighbour farmer. We've also been experimenting with cooking on top of the oil stove in the kitchen. Troy recently got a cast iron dutch oven at the church's youth auction and it is particularly suited to the oil stove.

We've found these "one pot" dinners are a super way to use all the canned carrots we have (and weren't eating as a veggie side). We're also still working on potatoes from last fall. They are storing well in the shop, and besides being a little extra dusty are just as good now as they were last fall.

I also finally broke down and bought a new hot-air popcorn popper. I'd gotten the last one as an engagement gift, 18 years ago! (Thank you, Tammy.) The new one does such a better job; I should have bought it sooner rather than put up with bad overcooked popcorn for the last year. This is related, by the way, to the previous topic as popcorn is my first choice for a quick late dinner. (Especially as it is usually Troy making it for me!!)

Eat well! We're still trying...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Back to Work

Earlier this week Troy and I agreed this weekend would be a great time to resume the siding. (More specifically, I suggested it and offered him my time, and he didn't want to repeat a previous mistake and say no.) This weekend was so good because we had no other commitments and it was supposed to be sunny and in the 40s (F).

This morning I heard we had a 50% chance of rain in the afternoon...that put a damper on things! But the rain hadn't started by the time we got home from church so we decided to run out there and do what we could until the rain started. Our attitude was that if we couldn't work a full session, even a half hour or full hour would get us that much ahead.

An "early" start meant we were out there a little after 2:00. Wait, do I need to remind you of where we left off? We had got the south wall done up to the door last fall:
Before we started today

Hmm...I just looked back in the blog archives to refer to the last siding update, and it looks like I never did show you how far we got.* (Shame on me.) But this is how the shop has looked since December (?) or whenever we got taken over by the cold and snow. (We were lucky the scaffolding wasn't frozen in place when we tried to move it today.)

We recommenced today
Partway through today's work

and almost got done the south wall.
At the end of the day

I was very eager to put up one more piece, but Troy called an end to the day at 6:00 because he had other things to do.

We're adding the base pieces as we go, so Troy had to take some time today to work a corner fitting.
The weather, by the way, turned out perfect; it never did rain. It was warm enough to work in just a sweatshirt (even me!) and not too bright and sunny. I commented to Troy at some point just how perfect a day it was for working outside and that if it were sunny I would regret having to work, even if I was outside.

And you know? not 10 minutes later the sun came out. I felt like it was taunting me.
But you know I love the sun; I can't hold a grudge.

*ETA: I did update you on the shop; it just wasn't labeled properly. If you need proof, it's here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Careful Art of Pretending You Don't See It

This is what I came home to tonight. Troy obviously had been up to something.

I walked around for a while and finally identified it. He had removed the little "butler table" shelf that was in the pantry between the kitchen and dining room. Looking around a little more, I saw he had started his plants in the dining room in a large heated box. I assumed the box didn't fit through the space and Troy was sick of it. (Sick of bumping into things, I mean.)

Here is the corner I'm talking about before we moved in:
Here's how it's been for the last couple years:
Not a great angle, but you can see the drawers that opened to the dining room had been removed (and all the lathe and plaster, obviously).

And here it is as of yesterday:
The drawers that opened into the walkway were removed and the left wall and open shelf above the drawers were trimmed back to the same depth as the other shelves. It really is amazing how much wider it makes it.

Current long term plans for that little walkway include pantry shelves, but they won't jut into the space as much as these ones did. I doubt there'll be drawers into the dining room. And on the opposite wall there may be room for narrow shelves for a lot of canning storage.

And back to the pile of wood in the middle of the kitchen...I just walked around it. It was apparent to me that Troy had already cleaned up a lot. (It was in a neat pile, after all.) And I figured he had plans for cleaning up the rest of it as well.

The Olympics being over, I will also update you on what else Troy's been up to. He's been making a lot of soap. Three batches over the last couple weeks. He's trying different combinations of oils, including primo high end mixes with olive oil.
The spare bedroom has become a soap curing facility.

Troy's also experimenting with colouring the soap, and produced a very lovely shade of spring green:

Change of author...

Christina has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Here it is from my perspective.

Every day is an adventure at our house. You never know, with certainty, what will take place that day.

On Tuesdays, I only work six hours at my day job. That leaves me free to putter around the house and the shop until 1:15 in the afternoon. Tuesday's goal was to get the pepper plants planted and set up in the germination box. It was a simple enough goal and should not have taken more than 30 minutes.. We didn't take that direct path though...

A little background first. Twice in the last two years I have failed to get a successful bunch of garden plants started early enough to provide good yields at the appropriate time in the season. The first time, I was just late. You have to start tomato seeds a good eight weeks before the date of the average last frost. I planted mine at six weeks, and had runty little four inch plants to set out. That turned out badly.

The next year ('09), I had carefully set up my calendar to get my full eight week early start. But my potting soil mix went all moldy and killed all the seedlings. Dashed again! By the time I replanted, I was late again and got skimpy wimpy little tomato plants again. Rats!


This year, I had taken every precaution. I was on a mission. I was not to be deterred. The date was carefully marked on the calendar. The perfect anti-fungal sterile potting mix selected and mixed up. All the little sterilized pots carefully set up on their little tray that I set in the home built heated germination box. Everything was in readiness.

However, there is a narrow little passage between our kitchen and our "dining" room, which serves as my plant nursery at the moment. It's a consequence of two dinky doorways with a lot of trim, and the stairway to the upstairs, all conspiring to make for a tight squeeze. Danged if I didn't snag a corner on my tray squeezing through that passageway, and dump a load of pots and soil all over creation.

This is not the first time I have run into trouble squeezing through there. It's just too tight. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Something snapped inside of me. I grabbed a wrecking bar and I tore every piece of trim out and made both doorways a good two inches wider all around. I cut off the shelf that stuck out into the passageway. I totally removed the superfluous door frame. Ahhhhh! So much better.

There is nothing quite so cathartic as demolition with a vengeance and a purpose.

Of course, the consequence is that Christina came home from work to find a substantial pile of debris and destruction sitting in the middle of the kitchen. What can I say? Living through a remodel is a new adventure at every turn. I'll have the wreckage bagged up and taken care of tonight this week.

Finest regards,


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